Tuesday 28 July 2009


"Do Geese See God?" visualization A schoolmate Nitin would introduce himself with the line: "I'm Nitin, the same backwards and forwards". However cheesy that may be, at least it gave a mnemonic - people didn't forget his palindromic name in a hurry.

Palindromes are words or phrases that read the same in either direction. Words like MUM, DEED, REFER, the famous long one MALAYALAM. Phrases like NURSES RUN and MADAM I'M ADAM and SO MANY DYNAMOS.

When a palindrome appears in a cryptic puzzle, the clue will often make use of its same-both-ways attribute in the wordplay.

Sample these:

Times Sunday 4312: It swivels up and down (7)
FT 13124 (Mudd): Flat food turned over just the same (4)
Times 24250: Standard that may be raised to no effect (5)
Guardian 24502 (Orlando): Witnesses going up and down (4)


  • The word "palindrome" is derived from the Greek palíndromos, meaning "running back" (palín = back + dromos = running).

  • Other than the traditional palindrome which has character-by-character symmetry, variants such as these are also classed as palindromes:

    • Word-Unit Palindrome: A phrase/sentence with symmetry of words rather than letters.  e.g. Fall leaves after leaves fall.
    • Mirrored Palindrome: A graphically reversible sequence. e.g. WOW, bid. A traditional palindrome is not necessarily mirrored (e.g. DID is not a mirrored palindrome).

  • The Shishupala Vadha, an epic Sanskrit poem composed by Magha in the 8th century, has a stanza which is palindromic not just forwards and backwards but also up and down. Read more here.

  • The Guardian carried a palindrome-themed puzzle by Araucaria a few months ago. Check it out here: Guardian 24587.

  • If you are afraid of palindromes, you're suffering from aibohphobia according to Wikipedia's list of jocular phobias (and if you're really possessed by this fear then don't learn this word as it is itself a palindrome).

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Rajani said...

Before reading your blog I had no interest in CROSSWORDS but now I try to follow your suggestions when I see any crossword and attempt to solve it.
The way you explain things is unbelievable. Your wrinting has the power to get people glued to your blog.
I am glad to have come across your blog.... KEEP WRITING :)

Shuchi said...

@Rajani: Your comment made my day, thank you!

Kavi said...

"Do geese see God?" Wow, never heard that before. Nice image with it.

The answers to clues?

Shuchi said...

Thanks, Kavi.

Let's wait for a few days for other readers to crack those clues. Will give out the answers if unsolved till next week.

Chaturvasi said...

Why should they wait for a week to be solved?
It swivels up and down (7) ROTATOR
Flat food turned over just the same (4) NAAN
Standard that may be raised to no effect (5) TENET
Witnesses going up and down (4) SEES

maddy said...

Standard that may be raised to no effect (5) LEVEL also fits...

Shuchi said...

*applause* With solvers like y'all around, I should know I wouldn't have to reveal answers myself.

ROTATOR is an &lit, as of course you'd have noticed.

Standard that may be raised to no effect (5)

The answer in the puzzle was LEVEL, though it could as well be TENET if solved w/o grid. Interestingly, someone had mentioned on the Times blog that they put in TENET and got the crossings wrong.

Chaturvasi said...

Now try this:
(The Chaturvasi Herald)
Farm machine going up and down (9)

Shuchi said...

To construct the up-and-down farm machine, put a cooking tool inside a machine part.

Shuchi said...

To construct the up-and-down farm machine, put a cooking tool inside a machine part.

AND this machine part also goes up and down.

Chaturvasi said...

And, if within the solution word, you
Look up and down (4)
you can
View back and forth (3)
Actress Gardner the same upon reflection (3)

maddy said...

Farm machine going up and down (9)

hotch potch of various clues for the answer.

Fan encircles actress gardner and model.

BTW, can ambidextrous be used as a palindrome indicator for across clues??

Chaturvasi said...

can ambidextrous be used as a palindrome indicator for across clues

I don't think so but let's see what Shuchi has to say.

Shuchi said...

It's a creative thought, but I don't think it precisely conveys a palindrome.

ambidextrous = able to use both hands equally well,
palindromic = the same in both directions

Close enough, perhaps, for the solver to deduce what 'ambidextrous' is trying to say in the clue, but it's not accurate I think.

Do you have a clue in mind using 'ambidextrous'?

Anonymous said...


BTW: 1.
I fully agree with Rajani. Once I asked in THCS 'Do you take classes?' and Vasi sir promptly replied "What else she does in her blog?" That brought me to your blog.
2. Now that Maddy mentioned can ambidextrous be used for ACROSS clues, I wonder again, rev inds up /down should be used in down clues only? That's what I thought when someone explained me that 'up' was rev ind (it was a down clue). So I assumed, up / down is rev ind for down clues.

Chaturvasi said...

We know that 'dexter' means 'right' (cf. 'sinister'). 'Ambidextrous' is from a Latin word that literally means 'righthanded on both sides'. I am afraid it might not work as a palindromic ind.
Now, what is 'ambidexter'?
What is 'ambilevous'?

Shuchi said...

@Aim: Thank you, it's great to receive good feedback.

About reversal indicators, or any indicators for the matter - the easiest way to decide if a word is valid is to look at the meaning of the word. Does it, in any sense, suggest the action to be performed on the fodder?

"up" can imply a vertical turn in direction, not a horizontal turn - so "up" works for DOWN clues only. An indicator like "going west" can be used for ACROSS clues only.

Here's more about reversal indicators.

maddy said...

Reg ambidextrous...I was thinking on the lines of
Ambidextrous => left hand = right hand ; for plaindromes in Ac clues - LHS = RHS due to centre line symmetry . Hence proved :)

Didnt have any particular clue in mind... Vasi sir's Ava Gardner (no pun intended) triggered the thought that it may be a good word for clueing palindromic names..say

By the grace of god, hebrew girl is ambidextrous (6)

Ambidextrous tennis players from the Eastern Bloc? (4)

or even

Is Actress Gardner ambidextrous?(3)

Unknown said...

Its one of the cleanest and best blog i have seen .Keep it up shuchi.